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Advocate firstname.lastname@example.org & Rsawest email@example.com
For Disclaimers see Chapter 1a
Mark ran his hand along the gleaming hood of Claire's new car with an approving whistle.
"Claire, this is excellent. This is a total babe mobile if I ever saw one," he said as he walked around the car.
"Thanks Marko, just what I need," snorted Claire as she looked on with pride at her new toy. Her gaze wandered to the two children playing on her front lawn. The boys were chasing each other, playing their version of Batman and yelling enthusiastically.
Mark continued his inspection and opened the back door and peered inside. "Theres a lot of room back here and the leather is really nice. Hey, they didn't detail this car very well. There are palm and fingerprints against the window here. Didn't you have the dealer clean and detail it before you took it home?"
Claire snorted again and actually blushed. "Yeah, its roomy back there. Ah, I took it home that same day, I couldn't wait," she replied.
Mark closed the door and looked at Claire with a smile before he turned and addressed his two sons.
"Keith, don't pull on Bobby's shirt. Its brand new. Come on," he motioned toward the car, "we're gonna go out to eat and ride in Aunt Claire's new car."
Claire laughed at her friends attempt to control his children. "Mark, you get the car seat for Bobby and I'll get Keith set up." After a few minutes of chasing down children and getting them tucked in the car, the buzzing group drove off toward the city.
"I haven't heard anything from my buddies at Hennepin County about Aaron. Looks very professional though," Mark remarked as he looked over the edge of the bridge and into the Mississippi River.
"Well, I told you what I found so far, but I didn't tell you about Origami, did I?" Claire moved into the right lane.
"What about Origami?" Mark turned and glared. "Bobby, don't hit your brother!"
"The night before Aaron bought it, we met at Origami. He told me that he and his business associates like to meet there. He didn't seem particularly shy about it." Claire shifted in her seat. Even the remembrance of hurt green eyes made her sick. "And then... you know... I ran into Jody and everything went downhill from there."
"His business associates are how he ended up in the river, Claire. Why didnt you tell me about this sooner?" Mark's voice held an angry edge. "What else did you find out?"
"I had some suspicions about the Cornerstone Clinic, but it turns out that they just have a contract with the corrections department. It was just a coincidence."
"Are you sure those pretty green eyes haven't made up your mind for you?"
Claire looked at him briefly, her own piercing eyes peeking over the edge of her Ray-Bans in a familiar gesture.
"I know, I'm really pushing it, aren't I," He laughed. "You said that Amanda's sister came over?"
Claire sighed silently and recounted Monica and Chuckys visit, finishing as she pulled up in front of the Grand Shanghai. Luckily, they found a parking space only a few doors down from the popular Chinese restaurant.
"Well, it sounds like you two have become closer, and that's good as far as I'm concerned. I haven't seen that sparkle in your baby blues in a long time, buddy."
"Youre nothing but big blond mushball, Marko," Claire said as she leaned over and kissed his cheek, "despite your macho act."
Mark smiled and touched his cheek where she kissed him. Although he had accepted the non-romantic nature of their relationship, he occasionally felt the twinge of unrequited feelings. Be mature about this, shes your best friend and that's all shell ever be for you. Give it a rest.
"So she doesn't know where Monica is now?" Mark said, snapping back into reality.
"No, and she's really worried, especially given her bitch sisters current desire to get Missy back."
Claire got out of the car and went to unhook Keith while Mark freed Bobby.
"Now I don't want you to order a combination plate, this ain't a chop suey house, Mark."
"Ah, come on, we have this argument every time. You are such a snob about Chinese food."
"Hey, I didn't spend three years in Chicago just going to law school, I sampled a lot of cuisine too!" Claire patted her belly. "Just feel lucky there isn't a Polish restaurant around here or I'd be eating tripe and grossing you out, you Nordic wimp," Claire teased as they walked towards the restaurant.
"Well, Claire Alexandra Easton, WASP if I ever saw one, youre not exactly soul sister number one, if you know what I mean," Mark chided back.
"At least I didn't grow up on hotdish and plain meatloaf because the tomato sauce was just too spicy for my delicate stomach."
"Hey, I'm a child of the Midwest..."
"That you are, and so am I, but you gotta expand those taste buds. I know you go home every night and cook mac and cheese for these kids." Claire motioned to the two fair-haired children. "Your kids need to know that food comes in colors other than yellow and white."
"For someone who cant cook macaroni and cheese for themselves, youre sure uppity."
Claire raised a dark eyebrow as she opened the restaurant door. "Cooking and eating are two different things."
Zane sat on the cool wooden park bench nervously scratching the stubble on his cheeks. Glancing at his watch he wondered if hed be late for his 8:00 a.m. sales presentation. An early morning phone call had roused him out of bed and beckoned him to a downtown park whose clientele was mostly bums and local gang members. Loosening his tie, his eyes scanned the park. Not only did he feel out of place in his business suit and expensive shoes, he felt a little frightened. Why would she want to meet here?
"Hey, Baby," a girlish voice called out.
Zane sprang to his feet and turned to see a smiling blonde standing behind the park bench. She was wearing faded Levis and black T-shirt that contrasted sharply against her pale, sallow skin.
"You look like shit," the salesman offered coldly.
"I missed you too."
"What do you want?"
The blonde rolled her eyes and circled around the bench, perching on its corner. "Cut the crap Zane. Im sure you can tell what I want just by looking at me."
Zane eyed the woman for a moment before joining her on the bench. His hand unconsciously moved to his chin where he began to scratch. "Im not your pimp, Monica."
"Since when," she snorted.
"Since you look like a strung out two-dollar whore," Zane replied viciously. "What the fuck have you done to yourself?"
Tired, hazel eyes bored into his. He shifted nervously under their weight. "Nothing you didnt help me with, old friend." Monica squinted as she looked out to the street beyond. "Wheres Junior?"
"Where do you think he is? Shit, did you think he would actually show up at a place like this?" Zane spread his arms indicating their decrepit surroundings, glad to have those haunting eyes focused elsewhere.
Monica sighed. "It doesnt matter. I need money." Her eyes fixed on Zane again. "And I dont care who I get it from or what I have to do to get it."
Zane brow creased. He hadnt expected her to be so blatant. Their phone conversation had been brief and terse. "Meet me at the park on Franklin and 10th in an hour," was all shed said. It was a voice out of his nightmares. He knew it well.
"Dont look so shocked, Zane. Or have you conveniently forgotten some of our," a thin hand reached up and tangled itself into Zanes hair, "previous personal arrangements."
Zane jerked back in revulsion. "Dont touch me," he hissed. Sliding down the bench and away from Monica, he ran a shaky hand through his hair as if to wipe away the blondes touch.
Monica laughed at the gesture. "Dont worry. I dont have anything catchy...that I know about." She smiled cruelly.
Zanes stomach twisted, remembering the variety of business transactions he and Monica had engaged in. Sex for drugs. It was a simple enough equation. But even then, hed had to indulge in his product before he could get up the nerve to follow through... At least the first time, anyway. After that, things seemed to get so much easier.
Hed wanted her since theyd met in college, before the needles and the money and the irrevocable decisions. And so when the opportunity presented itself, he took it. At least that was before she looked like the walking dead, his mind added. He closed his eyes. Pretty co-ed gone junky...successful football player turned pusher. NO! Im more than that.
Looking at Monica reminded him of his meager beginnings in the Chow organization and of people that didnt exist anymore. He didnt like it. Hed moved onward and upward, even if she hadnt. His eyes lingered over the track marks running nearly the length of Monicas arms, then moved to the soft swell of breasts that were still full, despite her painful thinness. He closed his eyes again and with a shiver of disgust, pushed away the beginning of strains of desire. Things had always been exceptionally good between them, even when they were bad.
"Earth to Zane...Zane?" Monica loudly snapped her fingers in front of his eyes.
His hand darted out and tightly gripped hers. "What are you doing back here? I didnt think Id ever see you again." At least I was hoping that would be the case.
"Thats none of your business. Are you going to help me or do I skip over you and go directly to Junior?" she challenged, apparently tired of waiting for Zane to respond.
"That wont be necessary," he snarled. "Ill talk to Junior this morning." Recovering some of his composure, he reached under the park bench and grabbed a paper sack. Standing, he thrust the bag into Monicas hands. A smile lit up red rimmed eyes as she traced the familiar outline of a syringe through the paper sack. Zane reached into his pocket and withdrew a long leather wallet. He tossed out couple of one hundred-dollar bills, which Monica eagerly grabbed. "Dont this piss away Monica. Get something to eat and some decent clothes." He sniffed in her direction. "And a bath." Turning, he stuffed his wallet back into his jacket. "Ill be back to pick you up at 7:00 oclock tonight. Dont be late." His hand moved to his face. I hope my travel razor is charged.
Monica gazed lifelessly at the elevator doors as they closed. Leaning back against the railing she tried to marshal her thoughts. As the floors silently slipped by, she smoothed her dress. How she looked was important, and shed wished she had a few more days to pull herself together. Zanes gift had helped, but not nearly enough. "Just enough to take the edge off," he yelled as he practically ran to his car. Cheap prick! She seethed.
Fiddling with her dress again, she smiled as she remembered the sales woman at Sears who had picked it out. Shed marched into the store and walked over the small section containing eveningwear.
Motioning over the nearest sales lady, shed crammed $40.00 in her hand. "I need something to wear...in black." The saleswoman stepped back, and Monica recognized the look of fear and disgust. Laughing, she simply plopped down in the middle of the aisle and waited. Deciding that the young woman didnt actually look dangerous, the elderly woman slid the money into a draw next to the register and wiped off her hands. Why the hell does everyone keep doing that? Monica wondered.
"Did you want a dress?" the woman inquired.
"Im in the dress section arent I?" Monica answered sarcastically.
"Well...yes. Fine. What size do you wear, dear?" the old woman asked in a voice more kind than Monica was accustomed to hearing.
Monica stood up and spread her arms. Looking down at her body, she spoke acidly "Id say I wear size skinny and fucked up, wouldnt you?"
The old woman flinched and began digging through the dresses. Monica felt a pang of guilt that was almost immediately swept away as her mind refocused on her own problems. "And make it one with long sleeves," she called after the woman.
DING. The elevator obediently chimed as its doors opened to the 20th floor. Quickly leaving the elevator, Monica looked in each direction down the long hallway and cursed Zane for dropping her off outside the building. Chickenshit! You never could handle Junior. She ran a hand through short clean locks. Okayokayokayokay. Get in. Get out. Do what I have to do, she chanted. With great effort, she pushed down the ever-present craving that was beginning to call to her... loudly.
Monica had reluctantly parted with enough of the money Zane had given her to get a motel room, dress, shoes, and some toiletries. She idly ran her tongue over clean teeth and admitted to herself that she at least, did feel better. Somehow, lately, shed always manage to misplace little things like a toothbrush or comb or her husband.
She paused outside of Juniors door. I wonder what did happen to J.J.? She hadnt seen him since theyd pawned off Claires car. Hes probably still passed out in that alley. What sort of fool only gets $500.00 for a car like that? What was I thinking when I married him? Monica tried to force her muddled mind to remember the blessed event, but couldnt. Shrugging, she quickly forgot about her husband and resolved herself to the fact that shed have to earn her way back into Juniors favor. Their last parting had been bitter. She knocked on the door, her body already tingling with anticipation. When Junior is happy hes very generous, she nearly giggled.
The door swung open and Monica let herself in. The large apartment was a vision of black and white and was mostly dark except for the dim lighting of a single lamp and the evening sun streaming through wide bay windows. Black and white floor tiles where overlaid with black and white area rugs. A shiny black piano stood regally in the corner atop a soft white fur rug. She looked closer. The rug was a polar bear with the head still attached. Yuck! Her eyes took in the entire room. You could loose all 101 fucking Dalmatians in this place. A large black leather couch sat between two strange pieces of furniture that Monica assumed were chairs. The stark room was cold and the blonde shivered, wrapping her bare arms around herself. Apparently, Sears didnt have any long sleeves dresses in size skinny and fucked up this spring.
"Hello, Monica. How nice of you to come for a visit," the deep familiar voice burred.
Monica turned to see Junior leaning against the closed door, cigarette in hand. His white linen trousers and black silk shirt looked out of place with his almost boyish good looks, but fit in perfectly with the décor of the room. Visit? You know exactly why Im here, Junior. Why do I always come? A wafting cloud of smoke followed Junior as he pushed off the door and stepped closer to the blonde.
"You look," the tall man glanced down, surveying her slender form as his lips pursing slightly, "adequate."
Thank God for dim lighting, Monica silently praised, as she breathed a sigh of relief. "Hello Junior. Ive missed you." She closed the remaining distance between them and gently pulled the cigarette from his lips. Taking a deep drag, she murmured appreciatively as she exhaled. Removing the cigarette from her own mouth, she smoothly traced Juniors lip with the tip of a thin finger before replacing it with the cigarette.
Junior felt himself growing hard as the small finger lingered at his lips then drifted down to his chest where it remained. The cool silk of his shirt contrasted sharply with the heat of his skin. Ahh...Monica. You havent forgotten how to play the game, have you? In a whirlwind of motion Junior viciously backhanded the blonde, sending her sprawling across the cold tiles.
In an instant, Monicas world went black and for a few seconds the only sensation she experienced was a loud ringing in her ears. Raising a shaking hand to her mouth, she couldnt suppress the small smile that crept its way across her lips. With the back of her hand, she wiped away a warm trickle of blood. Thats it, Junior, her mind crooned. Now were getting someplace. Thats the beautiful monster I remember.
After a final deep drag from the cigarette, Junior silently walked over the to the low ivory coffee table and snuffed it out in a thin dark ashtray. He straightened to his full height and spoke with his back to his guest. "Didnt anyone ever tell you its rude to take things that arent yours, Monica?" An eyebrow raised unseen by Monica. "At least until theyve been offered to you."
As he stood admiring his penthouse view, he felt small hands began to caress his back. "Of course, Junior. How could I forget?" Purred a voice that was part seductive part sarcastic. Neither element was lost on the man.
"Its been a long time." He leaned back into the touch.
"A bit more than two years," came the softly spoken response.
"And what have you been doing all this time? I would have known if youd stayed in town." Broad shoulders loosened slightly as small strong hands began to knead.
"Ive been around." Monica shook her head slightly as the ringing her in hears finally disappeared. "I guess...I couldnt stay away."
Junior exhaled loudly and dropped his head as the massage worked its way up to his hairline. Monica heard a low chuckle. "No, I guess you couldnt."
Stepping away from the roving hands, Junior moved closer to the bay window and looked out at the city painted in red sunlight. "Do I need to ask what youre here for?" His voice had lost its informal tone and was all business.
Monica stepped along side him, her head only level with his shoulder. Two sets of hazel green eyes were locked forward. She willed her body not to shake. How long had it been since Zanes little present? Was that only this morning?
Monica deliberately didnt answer Juniors question. "It looks like business is going well. Werent you only on the 8th floor last time I was here?"
The man slowly nodded. His facial expression remained neutral but the slight quiver in his voice betrayed his growing rage. "If Im not mistaken, I asked you a question, little girl."
Monicas eyes drifted toward the shiny piano in the corner. "Do you actually play that thing? Or do you just use it to hold down the bear so it wont get up one day and walk away?"
Junior turned to face her, his eyes raging. She saw the slap coming long before it hit her, but did nothing to avoid it. Its force was enough to send her reeling against the glass of the bay window. Her knees buckled, but before she could slide down, a meaty hand gripped her throat and pushed her back up against the cold unyielding surface. Monica was on her tipped toes but Junior continued to increase his grip. She felt herself being lifted off her feet.
"You never did know when to shut up. Did you, whore?" he hissed as he brought his face within inches of hers. His tongue snaked out and tasted the blood smeared across her cheek.
For a split second the woman wished the glass behind her would give way, releasing her from the nightmares and misery. But then, she reminded herself, you wouldnt feel the rush thats coming.... just a little while longer....itll all be worth it... remember?
Monica gasped as she struggled for air. Tiny black dots began to invade her peripheral vision. She knew she was only seconds from passing out. Reaching up, she pushed her hand between the buttons of Juniors silk shirt, snapping off two buttons the process. Her fingers tangled themselves in short curly hair and she felt the iron grip on her throat began to release as she was slowly lowered to the ground.
"Bitch!" Junior yelled as slapped her once again, sending a spray of blood and saliva across the hard tiles. This time, however, although she stumbled sideways a few steps, she remained on her feet. "This shirts worth more than you are."
Straightening, Monica stepped forward, back-lit by the evening sun. The wet black liquid on her face turned crimson as she passed out of the shadows and into a beam of violet golden rays. Junior felt his pulse increase at the sight. Id forgotten how much I enjoy you, Monica. Thats it. The woman moved forward seductively. Feed me.
Monica dragged a finger across her bloody lips and trailed their contents along Juniors bare chest and into his waiting mouth. The coppery tang of her blood intensified his need and fueled his anger. He growled and brought his hands up, tightly gripping her hair. Pushing her body away from his, he tightened his grip again, closing his eyes as she cried out in pain. He was now throbbing as his body remembered the delicious thrill of pain....blood...submission...and unadulterated power. He groaned with satisfaction as tears coursed down the small blondes cheeks and she began to violently thrash against his grasp. "Yes!" he praised, as the woman redoubled her efforts.
With a savage jerk Monica was sent crashing to her knees. She screamed as twin bolts of pain shot through her legs and into her lower back. Junior moaned again, twisting his fingers deeper into short honey hair. Suddenly, his eyes lifted off the kneeling form. They were calm now, devoid of any emotion, and they scanned the horizon once again. Roughly, he pulled her mouth to his swollen groin and Monica performed the rest of her task by rote.
As she unzipped his trousers, she was surprised to feel little of the revulsion shed remembered from her similar encounters with Junior. The large hands that had been so brutal seconds before began stroking her hair with a disconcerting gentleness. She didnt have to look. She knew his eyes would be focused on the buildings beyond and his face would be eerily blank. There are some things that time just doesn't seem to change.
She flinched as he thrust into her, making her gag, but she didnt stop. Her mind wandered from Junior to Zane. Both men had called her a whore today. She supposed she was a whore. But in truth, she considered them her whores as well. They willingly accepted what she offered and her efforts were always well rewarded. Arent we all just using each other?
These men were so different, although, each man was handsome, tall and fair. Her mind derailed as she was assaulted with a vision of Missy and innocent green eyes. But she stopped there, as she always did, not wanting to consider the little girls likely lineage.
A firm hand redirected her mouth and brought her crashing back to the grim present. She cursed herself for not being able to completely tune out her surroundings and actions, as she had always been able to in the past. Then, she would simply crawl into the safe deep dark recesses of her mind and wait for the reward that would accompany her actions. But now, even the deepest corners of her soul were lit with ugliness. They were haunted. There was no safe place to hide. Shed seen to that herself, crossing every single barrier shed weakly clung to, going farther than she thought she dared, until now...now she simply floated in a state of constant ache, where peace didnt exist.
Junior finished. He turned away from her and zipped his pants. No words would pass between them. She knew that. Even their eyes wouldnt meet for long moments. His coldness covered her like a familiar blanket. So different from Zane, she mused. Although Junior and his younger associate were physically similar, something on the inside of each man was vitally different.
After an evening with Zane, the man would cry, pathetically begging her forgiveness, until he would finally compose himself enough to toss her a small brown paper sack filled with money or drugs. Their eyes always seemed to meet for a long, inexplicably painful second, and then he would silently leave the room.
Junior, however, liked to watch her enjoy her spoils. He shared in her tragedy and triumph. Tonight was no exception. After leaving her on her knees, he returned with a small glass box in one hand and a white washcloth in the other. Tossing Monica the washcloth, he sat back heavily in the cool leather couch.
Wiping the blood from her cheeks, mouth and nose, Monica couldnt contain her excitement as she crawled to the treasure that awaited her. Finally, daring to look Junior directly in the eye, she received the nod she was waiting for and eagerly dove into the box. "Thank you, Evan," she mumbled.
Her skin was slick with a thin layer of sweat and her heart pounded with anticipation. Rummaging through its contents, she laughed heartily and latched onto a small syringe. She picked up a rubber-constricting band but then dropped it in favor of drawing the clear liquid contained in a small glass vile. Her hands were shaking. Taking a deep breath, she savored these last few seconds of anticipation as though they were a drug themselves. Junior smiled, then laughed cruelly. What she had tried to hide only moments before, she now fully embraced.
When she finished drawing out the liquid, Junior leaned forward and offered her the rubber band once again. Shaking it off, she unceremoniously pulled down the front of her dress and injected the liquid directly into a large blue vein trailing from her throat to her chest. Juniors eyes widened as he noticed for the first time the scars that peppered her arms... he looked again...and her chest.
Withdrawing the needle, Monica tossed it on the ivory table and leaned back against the sofa, already feeling an icy fire flowing through her. She exhaled softly as her arms went limp and a look of pure satisfaction twisted her face. She glanced up to see Junior staring at her. Oops. I forgot he was still here.
He lifted his eyebrows in question.
"Faster that way...better," she purred, as her eyes rolled back and her mind lost all focus. The shackles of pain that had gripped her so tightly simply floated away.
"Youd put it straight into youre heart if you could, wouldnt you?" Stupid bitch. Junior leaned back and lit another cigarette. Resting his head on the soft cushion, he remained silent for a long moment. "That is, if junky whores even have hearts," he finally added.
Monica didnt answer. She didnt even hear him.
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